Thank You Police

Thank you notes are a big deal in my family, both the one I grew up in and the one I married into.  The day after Christmas was set aside for writing the obligatory notes. “Have you written your thank yous yet?”  With that we gathered our supplies and hunkered down before the fire.  “What do I say to Aunt Betty?  I think the green purse she sent is ugly!” Determined to train me as a Southern lady, Mom would remind me that Aunt Betty couldn’t help it if she was from New Jersey and that she doesn’t have much money and that she didn’t have to send me anything.  Then she’d help me find words to match the glimmer of gratitude she had stirred.

Our kids received the same training, but without the Southern accent.  The annual ritual required a certain amount of external discipline until the appropriate internal motivation developed.  One year some inappropriate motivation threatened to develop when one of the relatives informed us that “a certain child” wouldn’t be getting a gift this year unless he coughed up thanks for last year’s present.  That child got right on it.  Fortunately we didn’t have to turn him over to the thank you police.

How different from our dutiful appreciation is Paul’s heartfelt gratitude to the Philippians.  In our final section Philippians 4:10-23 Paul ends his letter the way he begins it, by giving thanks.  At the beginning he thanked God for them, now he concludes by thanking them directly for their monetary gift to him in prison.  But he goes far beyond thanks.  He uses this occasion to teach, encourage, and give an eternal perspective that only comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Discussion question of the week. As you study this section, keep this question before you:  What makes Paul’s expression of gratitude different from a typical “thank you note”? You might find it helpful to make two columns, one side containing elements of notes you or your kids have written, and the other enumerating the specifics Paul covers.  Once you’ve seen the differences answer this one:  How does the finished work of Christ account for the difference? Another way to put it is:  How does the gospel produce the grace of gratitude?

Applying this passage should be a lot of fun.  As you study, I’ll bet the Lord will bring to mind people you would like to thank.  I want to encourage each of us to follow through on those thoughts with at least one actual email or call or note.  Letting your gratitude overflow into actual words will bless you as well as them and bring glory to God, the source of all this grace.

6 comments on “Thank You Police

  1. Charissa McElroy says:

    Betty says: I want to encourage Rondi, this study has helped me see Philippians in a whole new light. The first time we see the word “thank” is verse 3 — “I thank my God always in every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.” How do we constantly remember the people that are in our lives? How often as we drive along a face flits through our mind who are ministering to us? We need to stop our thoughts and pray for the well being of that individual, and how God has used them, and let them know that they are getting an eternal reward for doing good for us. More glory redounds to Christ every time we accomplish some good work in this life, and just reminding them of that, thanking them and praying for them in a very pointed way. *It’s important to actually STOP what you’re doing,* if you’re making a meal, to put the measuring spoons down, STOP your activity for 60 seconds, and put the name of that person before God.

    Yesterday, we found out that my type of cancer is not liver cancer, as we had thought, but biliary tract cancer. It’s one of the most aggressive and least-detectable forms of cancer. The doctor told us I did not have a single trace of cancer even a year ago. I’m just reflecting on that, and thinking how God often just says, “Lets go do it, lets get it done. I have another purpose for you, I have another purpose for your family, lets just do it.” God wanted to do a speedy work. And yet he gave me a couple months to get my head together, around this, and also to accomplish a good thing in my daughter, Charissa’s life.

    Charissa: I found the finished work of Christ to inform Paul’s expression of thanks in the way he keeps pointing the giver to God. Paul’s gratitude seems more circular, more round, intrinsically connecting the giver, the receiver, and God. How all good gifts come from God. How even our ability to give comes from God. How gifts are a pleasing aroma to God. How we are stacking up credits in God’s eyes when we give. How gifts to others are actually gifts to God. How God will supply the giver’s needs as they supply Paul’s. The circularity of blessings and gifts connecting Paul, God, and the giver. I also noted how Paul singled this church out for their generosity, specifically to the exclusion of others.

    It is fascinating to me that I had been BEGGING God to help me make time for regular time in the Word and prayer. NEVER in my wildest dreams would I have guessed he would answer that prayer by giving my mom cancer, thus having me quit my job and apartment and move up to live with her. Now we spend HOURS in the morning in prayer and Bible reading. Praise God! I can feel my walk with him getting closer and sweeter. Praise, praise, PRAISE God and his mysterious ways! Having morning devotions with mom enriches and multiplies my understanding of scripture BY DISCUSSING together. Being able to discuss with someone, especially her, is priceless, the way it deepens and makes more thorough my understanding of the word.

    • Lissa says:

      Betty & Charissa:
      Thank you so much to both of you for sharing. I have to agree with Rondi about so often feeling guilty when someone does come to my mind for not thinking about them or not praying for them more often. But WOW what a grace fo God to bring them to my mind or flash them before my radar, because, HAHAH I DON”T think about them the way I ought but what a grace to have his reminder! I love it, thank you!
      And truly to share about your trust in God in a time of suffering, the world cannot deny God’s power. It is in those moments of hard real life that the world expects our faith to crumble, but my what great encouragement to see your faith ignite, what a mighty God we have. So I thank you, even though I have never met you, for sharing your story with us and encouraging me.

      In thought on Philippians and being thankful, I am brought to remembering again that the only reason Paul or the Philippians are even able to be thankful, to be giving, is because of the cross. When you stand at the cross and you really ponder and see that you do not deserve it. That I have done nothing to deserve the work of his blood, try as I might, it is in that humble realization that I can thank my God for everyone in my life, ever thing in my life and say truly God every good and perfect gift is from above, let me not be deceived.
      Lord, make me to see the cross daily!
      And then out of the abundance of joy that he has caused in me heart, comes a desire to give back, of all that he has given me. Truly Charissa it is as you said, always pointing back to him, he makes us to be thankful and makes it our joy to give as well!

      Rondi, I truly am thankful also for this study! It has really been a sweet time in the word!

      • rondi says:

        You’re welcome! It has been fun for me, too.

  2. rondi says:

    Betty, your insight about stopping to thank God when he brings someone to mind is a good one. It doesn’t take long, but stopping my activity brings my focus to that person before God. Recently I have begun to realize that anytime someone comes to mind, it is the Lord doing it. I react with guilt, “Oh no, I never think of them. I forgot to pray for them AGAIN.” Now I see it as an opportunity, “Thank you, Lord, for bringing them to mind. I wasn’t even thinking of them a moment ago and now I get to pray for them.”

    That’s remarkable news about the cancer. Your confidence in the sovereign goodness of God is a sweet savor of Christ to all of us.

    Charissa, your insight about the “circularity of blessings and gifts connecting Paul, God, and the giver” is a good one. Your joy in studying the Word is obvious…and contagious! Thanks for joining in the discussion.

  3. Charissa McElroy says:

    Thanks Rondi, for your postings!

    Now that Phil. is over, were you gonna start a new book or is this the end of the “blog?” We kinda jumped ahead and began Colossians… we were wondering what your next move was gonna be?

    ps — Did you memorize your verse from last week? 😉

  4. rondi says:

    Good for you for deciding what to study next. I was going to encourage everyone to pick a gospel to read/study for the rest of December. I think I’ll do John. Also, I was planning to take a break from the blog while my family is here, but plan to start back up with an Old Testament book in January, Lord willing. I think we’ll do Jonah together for that month.

    And, yes, I did memorize my verse, but that doesn’t mean it will stay with me! How ’bout you?